Book Review: All Things Cease To Appear by Elizabeth Brundage

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Title - All Things Cease To Appear
Author - Elizabeth Brundage
Publication Date - May 5th 2016
Publisher - riverrun
Format - Hardcover (Provided by publisher)
Pages - 416

- Blurb -
Upstate New York, 1980s
The farm stood at the foot of the hill. Around it, an aching emptiness of fields and wind. Within, a weight, a sense of being occupied, with more than its inhabitants.
The Clares got it cheap. George knew why, though he didn't let on ­- he didn't want to give Catherine any excuses. He'd given her an easy excuse to get married. He wasn't prepared to give away much more.
Catherine, at home with their young daughter, has the feeling they're not alone. She is helped by the Hale boys, young Cole and his brothers. Though they never tell her what happened to their mother in this house.
As the seasons burn and then bite, the Clares will find their place in this small upstate community. George, the inscrutable professor; his beautiful, brittle wife. He will try to tame the hollow need inside him. She will pull strength from the friends she makes. But as their marriage splinters, so too does the border between sanity and rage; between this world, and the inexplicable beyond.
With masterful tension and understanding of human nature, Elizabeth Brundage has crafted a novel that is at once a community's landscape spanning twenty years and an intimate portrait of a disturbed mind. This is new American fiction at its most piercing, ambitious and chilling.

- Review -
First of all, I must thank the fabulous Elizabeth Masters for providing me with a review copy of this excellently chilling novel. I won't lie, it was the glowing recommendation from Stephen King that originally caught my eye with this one. I, for one, believe Mr King has exceptional taste and I couldn't wait to see what it was that he'd found so impressive. I quickly came to learn of it.

In All Things Cease To Appear by Elizabeth Brundage, the reader is introduced to the town of Chosen. It's a peculiar little place where everybody talks and where everyone knows each other, the type where if something goes wrong, the people of the town won't think twice to rally round in support. It's tight and close-knit, a community made up of families who've lived there for generations. The Hale farm has already been witness to tragedy, which is why it comes at such a low price to George. He knows the truth yet keeps the history of the place to himself, because he knows how his wife Catherine would react. It's only a matter of time before she finds out, though. If the townspeople don't tell her first, then the house will surely spill its secret by itself.

What I truly loved about the telling of this story was the structure of it. Brundage chooses to tell this story in five parts, the first beginning in 1979. I felt as if I lived generations through this book, take Franny for example, who we first meet as a little girl but has grown into a woman before the novel reaches its end. I felt deeply connected to the characters, even from the very beginning. Concerned, despite not being able to put my finger on why I felt this way. It was as if, buried beneath Brundage's absolutely stunning visual descriptions of the Hale farm and the characters, something was simmering. The author's style was evocative and drew me in. The town of Chosen seemed real to me, and I was able to visualise it perfectly in my mind. But again, as normal as everything appeared on the surface, there was still something there, something evil and nasty, just waiting for the moment it could come clean and show itself fully.

Brundage's characters within All Things Cease To Appear were a cleverly-constructed collection. Each of them had numerous depths and layers to their persona, those of which I was desperate to get beneath. As the novel progressed, those layers were stripped away and it slowly began to dawn on me that this wasn't just any story. Alongside the themes of faith and belief, of adultery and crime, Brundage explored motherhood and marriage, and the chilling truth that people are not always what they appear to be. It flagged numerous topics for me to sit and consider, to wonder and ruminate about, and I really do love it when a book does that to the reader. There was so much going on within this book, yet at the same time, I found myself fascinated by George and Catherine's marriage, which to me, took centre-stage. But then on top of this, there was also the farmhouse itself to consider, strange and quiet as it was. I knew things would change once Catherine learnt the truth about the home and what had happened there previously. After all, I think I would have had something to say about it if I had been in Catherine's shoes too. It's not only the house that begins to change Catherine though. It's the people she meets and the friends she makes. But change, in George's eyes, is never good, especially where his wife is concerned.

Throughout the progression of this book, things I hadn't noticed before about the characters began to push through and make themselves become known. Some, I felt that I'd known were coming, whereas others took me completely by surprise. It was an incredibly moving read, but constantly had me guessing and not sure whether I was right or not in my assumptions. I felt things really began to quicken in pace towards the end of the novel where I rushed through the pages, desperate to reach the end and see how Brundage would tie it up. I wasn't disappointed and in fact, felt a strange sense of relief by the time I closed the book and sat back.

Becca's Books is awarding All Things Cease To Appear by Elizabeth Brundage with four of my bookish stars. A truly thought-provoking and subtle novel. I never quite knew where the author would take me or her characters next and I loved that about this book. With so much to consider and so much to keep an eye on, it kept me on my toes while leaving me curious as to why I felt this way. It was cleverly-written, and a little unnerving at times, but completely satisfying too. I wouldn't hesitate to read more from Elizabeth Brundage.


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